Baggin’ the Katy Trail – Day 2

bagger – In cycling terms; one who is self-contained, using panniers and other gear carrying bags on their bike to tour for multiple days. See also, bike touring.

A beautiful morning in the wilds of Missouri on the Katy Trail.

Day 2: Franklin to Tebbetts (56 miles) Friday, September 24, 2010

Happy birthday to me! I challenge you to think of a better way to begin your birthday. Nothing beats waking up to chirping birds on a warm sunny morning in the middle of a bike camping adventure.

28 started out great! It was 10:30 a.m. by the time we’d eaten breakfast and let our gear dry out before packing up and hitting the crushed gravel.

Today was going to be a long, challenging day in terms of miles. But from what I’d read, this stretch was one of the most scenic on the Katy Trail, so I was looking forward to it.

From Franklin we rode through more lightly-wooded areas leading us to those rumored limestone bluffs that slowly rose up on our left. To our right, winding its way towards us with its overflowing banks was the Missouri River sparkling in the morning sun.

The bluffs were spectacular in size and contrast to the surroundings. It was difficult to see them in their entirety since they were so close to us as we rode. A few times I almost lost control of my bike as I tried to crane my neck and look up to see them.

Our first stop of the day was at the town of Rocheport for a photo by the historic train tunnel built in 1893. My guidebook said the workers who were building the tunnel protested their measly wages by filling the tunnel with dynamite and then threatened to blow it up if they weren’t given higher pay. Thankfully they were able to make a compromise so we can still see and use the tunnel today.

Train tunnel at Rocheport, Mo., built in 1893.

In Rocheport, a lovely little town with bed and breakfasts, little shops and restaurants lining its main street, we stopped to grab an early lunch at Abigail’s. There were other cyclists dining at the little restaurant and it looked like an inviting place to eat. Our lunch was delicious and the atmosphere was relaxing.

After lunch we needed to get serious about putting in some miles since we’d gotten a late start from camp and taken our time at Abigail’s. There was still 47 miles of continuous pedaling before reaching our hostel in Tebbetts.

This would be a good time to mention one not so pleasant feature of the Katy Trail. I had been warned of this disturbing fact in my guidebook but hadn’t seen proof of it until day two.

The trail runs through some prime snake habitat. The snakes make their homes in the rocky hillside next to the trail and use the gravel path as a place to bask in the warm sun.

Abigail’s in Rocheport, Mo., a great place to eat.
New scenery as bluffs rise on the left and the Missouri River appears on our right. Brian J. photos.

The first snake we came upon I didn’t see until it was only a few inches from my bike. I darn near ran over the thing! It was black, six feet long and as big around as a grown man’s fist. (This may be a slight exaggeration, but to me the thing was scary! It was not small, I’m sure of that.) I gasped and my body seized up in fright. I knew it couldn’t hurt me but I have this fear that if I run over a snake it might lash up and bite me in the leg or even touch me, yuck!

Brian had to stop and take a photo of the snake.

Did I mention I’m not a huge fan of snakes? I don’t mind seeing them in cages or from afar, but I’m aware of their quick movements and ability to bite. I have no desire to be in close proximity to one. I asked Brian if he had seen the snake, too. He had not. The next three I saw he didn’t see either. I think he thought I was seeing things. I couldn’t believe he hadn’t spotted one yet, it seemed like they were everywhere.

After seeing the first snake my mind went into ultra-alert mode to anything snake-like on the trail. I’ll admit I rode past lots of sticks that gave me a start.

Finally, Brian saw his first snake. A large, black one stretched almost entirely across the trail. As any curious boy would do, he stopped his bike, turned around and got as close to it as possible. He took some photos then made enough commotion to make it slither off into the grass. This is all while I stood waiting about 40 feet away.

The rest of the day was filled with lots of pedaling, small towns and more scenic views of the Missouri River.

Eventually, the river wound out of view and the last few miles of the day were somewhat monotonous as we followed a roadway instead of a river. My bottom was becoming increasingly sore and my legs fatigued. It was tempting to hop on the smooth, hard blacktop of the road we were paralleling and coast in some easy miles, but I just couldn’t do it. I came here to ride the trail.

The town of Tebbetts greeted us with tall grain silos and a handful of age-worn buildings. We easily found our hostel and were eager to shower and rest our legs.

Turner Katy Trail Shelter in Tebbetts, Mo.

Our hostel, the Turner Katy Trail Shelter, was a great place to stay and only cost us $5 each for the night. The building had been a church, school and recreation center before becoming a hostel. Now the main room was lined with bunk beds waiting for bikers to make use of its accommodations.

On a table at the end of the main room was a guestbook with entries from previous guests. It was fun to read and learn of the variety of people passing through on the trail. There were large groups down to solo riders from all over the U.S. and foreign countries. It appeared that the hostel had at least one rider a night using its facilities. We had the whole place to ourselves this night. I was hoping there would be other riders so we could swap trail stories.

Turner Katy Trail Shelter
Arriving at the hostel couldn’t have come sooner.

Reading through the guestbook we also discovered that almost everyone ended up at the only bar in Tebbetts, Jim’s Bar, which sits across the street from the hostel. It’s the only place in town to grab some food and enjoy a beer.

Jim’s Bar

Some words to describe Jim’s Bar: Unique, smoky, friendly, kooky. With fresh clothes and full stomachs, we walked the ten steps to Jim’s Bar for some drinks and a little nightlife with the locals. We found the bar to be crowded on this Friday night.

There were a couple open stools at the bar so we bellied up and asked what they had on tap. There was no tap. We also asked if they had some whiskey – since we’re Whiskey Riders and it was my birthday and all – they had no whiskey, or any hard liquor for that matter. I asked for the darkest beer they had and the woman behind the bar showed us a gold can of Stag beer, which I’d never had before. She said it was dark. We each ordered one and found it to be fairly decent. I don’t think it was a dark beer at all, but it was cold and it was beer.

Jim’s Bar is a very friendly place. Within the first half hour we met the lady who lives next to the hostel, Jim, and a local man who used to be an Elvis impersonator. Our neighbor for the night was an extremely nice old lady who was dressed to the T in her leopard-print blouse and bright, red lipstick. She welcomed us having known the instant we walked through the front doors that we were Katy Trail bikers. The locals were obviously accustomed to having trail riders enter their bar.

Jim, the owner, sat behind the bar manning the Karaoke machine and tending bar. He’s a fun-loving prankster with a wealth of props waiting behind the bar to use on unsuspecting visitors. He tried to get a start out of me with the “rubber band and paperclip in an envelope gag” that’s supposed to sound like a rattlesnake. Luckily for me I’d seen this prank before. I’d had enough excitement with snakes for the day anyway.

Left: Jim’s Bar in Tebbetts, Mo. Right: Bar owner, Jim, plays some sort of tie instrument behind the bar. The sign on the bar reads, “The position of Jim’s Bar Greeter has been filled. Thank you.” Brian J. photos.

Sitting next to me at the bar was the Elvis impersonator. He said he’d gotten third place in a national contest. He also was a wealth of information on the history of the town. Apparently we were sitting in what used to be the town’s bank. The old vault was still standing and now used for storage.

It was an enjoyable evening with the locals of Tebbetts as everyone yucked it up, drank down some cold ones and sang old country songs on the Karaoke machine. (I didn’t recognize one song until the Elvis impersonator sang an Elvis song for us – he was quite good.)

We ordered a couple more beers and refused the requests to sing. I wasn’t going to subject those nice people to my awful singing voice.

Towards the end of the night people had drank their courage and were more frequently stepping up to the karaoke machine. On one of the songs Jim started bringing out some instruments he had stowed behind the bar. I played the tambourine while another lady played the spoons on her knee and we rocked the house late into the night.

When we’d had our fill of excitement we said goodnight to our new friends, walked the four yards to our hostel and got some shuteye.

VIDEO OF JIM’S BAR (by Brian J.):

“Baggin’ the Katy Trail – Day 3-4”



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